Nesbitt Billy Image 3 Burnley 1923

Nesbitt Billy Image 3 Burnley 1923


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Todmorden, Yorkshire born outside right Billy Nesbitt began his football career with his local side, Cornholme, joining Lancashire side Portsmouth Rovers in 1909 and playing for Hebden Bridge in 1910 from where he joined Second Division Burnley in 1911, making his Football League debut against Barnsley in February 1912. After 13 appearances before the end of the season, he was mainly a reserve the following season as Burnley won promotion, finishing as Second Division runners up, but from the end of October 1913 he secured a regular place in the side. That season Nesbitt played in all 8 FA Cup ties as Burnley won both the 1914 FA Cup, beating Liverpool 1-0 at The Crystal Palace. However the onset of the First World War soon forced the suspension of peacetime football.

After the War Nesbitt returned to the Burnley team and was a regular as Burnley finished runners up in the League Championship in 1919-20. He then missed only two matches as The Clarets won the League Championship in 1920-21, finishing third in their title defence the following season. However Nesbitt lost his place at the start of the following season, and after scoring 20 goals in 192 appearances for Burnley he moved to Bristol City in the 1923 close season, playing 30 matches during a single season at Ashton Gate in 1923-24 as Bristol City were relegated from the Second Division, and after had a short spell with Clapton Orient without making their first team he was forced to retire from the professional game through injury in 1924.

He was profoundly deaf, and Burnley captain Tommy Boyle learned to lip read to pass on instructions. Nesbitt weighed less than seven and a half stone, quite possibly the lightest ever to play in the Football League.

NB in the photograph, taken at Turf Moor on 12th March 1923, Nesbitt (centre) is tackled by Bolton Wanderers’ Vince Matthews (left) and Alex Finney (right). Nesbitt scored the winner, his last goal for Burnley, in a 2-1 victory for The Clarets.

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